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Floyd, 11 pastors to lead SBC 'Call to Prayer' in Columbus, Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) – For an "epic night of prayer" during the Southern Baptist Convention, 11 pastors have been named by SBC President Ronnie Floyd to help lead the Tuesday evening session, June 16, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in the Ohio capital.

Floyd has titled the session "A National Call for Prayer to All Southern Baptists for the Next Great Awakening and to Reach the World for Christ" on the opening night of the June 16-17 SBC annual meeting.

"We will join together in the same room and around the world via technology for this one epic night of prayer," Floyd wrote April 13 in his SBC President's Page column.

Two former SBC presidents, Jack Graham and James Merritt, will be among the evening's leaders. Graham is senior pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church; Merritt is lead pastor of the Atlanta-area Cross Pointe Church.

"It is time to call out to God for the next Great Awakening and to reach the world for Christ," Floyd, pastor of the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, wrote. "On Tuesday night, June 16, we will give the entire evening session of the SBC Annual Meeting to this national prayer gathering. …

Floyd at the 2014 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention."We will gather to experience the presence of God based upon the Word of God. We will be challenged briefly by some of America's great pastors, then launch into prayer sessions in response to God and His Word. We will also express our worship and praise to God together through music and singing."

Floyd also noted, "One of the unique moments of the evening will be when we embrace and celebrate our ethnic diversity, which may also involve moments of repentance and reconciliation. Each of us needs to be in this experience together, letting God do a powerful work in each of our lives and churches. Southern Baptists must lead the way in embracing and celebrating our ethnic diversity."

Encouraging messengers to shift their plans for dinner and fellowship in order to be in attendance, Floyd urged, "Please let nothing keep you from this extraordinary night of prayer together."

He also noted, "If you live within driving distance of Columbus, Ohio, and can't attend the entire conference, at least come for Tuesday night."

The overall theme for the two-day annual meeting in Columbus is "Great Awakening: Clear Agreement, Visible Union, Extraordinary Prayer."

In addition to Graham and Merritt, other leaders (in alphabetical order) scheduled for the session are Timmy Chavis, senior pastor of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, N.C., and chairman of the SBC Multi-Ethnic Advisory Council; Steve Gaines, senior pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church; David Galvan, lead pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista - Nueva Vida in Dallas; J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C.; Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass.; Vance Pittman, senior pastor of Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas; Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Penscola, Fla.; Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.; and K. Marshall Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia and president of the Natiional African American Fellowship.

Julio Arriola, global worship pastor for Cross Church, will lead the music, along with the church's choir and band.


New Obamacare tax law may affect churches

NASHVILLE (BP) – A new tax rule in conjunction with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may affect many churches that pay or reimburse individual health insurance premiums, and imposes daily fines beginning June 30 for those not in compliance.

GuideStone Financial Resources health plan participants should notice no impact as a result of the rule known as IRS Notice 2015-17, GuideStone said in a March 2 press release. Other churches whose employees do not participate in a group health plan could be affected.

"GuideStone health plan participants, and the organizations that employ them, can continue to pay for coverage as they have in the past and meet the guidelines under current law," said Harold R. Loftin Jr., GuideStone general counsel. "For churches and ministries that use other providers, it's important for them to review the IRS Notice, as well as work with their legal and accounting advisors to ensure they are compliant by the end of the grace period on June 30, 2015."

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LifeWay pulls 'heaven visitation resources'

NASHVILLE (BP) – LifeWay Christian Resources has stopped selling all "experiential testimonies about heaven" following consideration of a 2014 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on "the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife."

LifeWay told Baptist Press about its decision to halt sales of heaven visitation resources March 24 in response to an inquiry about the book "90 Minutes in Heaven" by Don Piper, which is being made into a movie slated for release this fall. The book recounts Piper's supposed experience of heaven following a severe auto accident and has sold 6.5 million copies in 46 languages.

"Last summer, as we began developing LifeWay's new structure and direction – what we've now identified as One LifeWay – the role of heaven visitation resources was included in our considerations. We decided these experiential testimonies about heaven would not be a part of our new direction, so we stopped re-ordering them for our stores last summer," LifeWay spokesman Marty King told Baptist Press in written comments.

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Evangelizing this Easter – Mark Snowden

SnowdenJEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) – Many baseball fans at this time of the year look forward to opening day. Should we look forward any less to the Greatest Story Ever Told?

Is Easter an annual event that we look forward to with joy? What is it about Easter that stirs your soul? Sunrise services? The Easter Story? And does that excitement lead to transforming lives around you with the gospel?

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The public square: Christian setbacks and victories

Rebecca Wolford


NASHVILLE (BP) – The freedom to live according to one's religious beliefs has been a fundamental right in America since its founding. As the culture changes and those opposed to biblical values become more vocal, it is becoming increasingly difficult to express religious beliefs without being socially ostracized or legally penalized.

The following compilation by SBCLIFE, the journal of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, lists many of the political and cultural junctures that have had an effect on religious liberty and biblical faith in America in recent years.

The first section recaps various setbacks; the second section, various victories.

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